Home > History > Criticism as Culpability: Baker Renounces The Allies

Criticism as Culpability: Baker Renounces The Allies

27-May-08 02:23 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Those of us who call ourselves ‘reasonable people’ are oft reminded and remind each other that at the core of every questioning of fact is the search for greater truth.  It is assumed, indeed, taken for granted that the second-guessing which is part and parcel of higher learning is done in good faith.  But what about those who would use this margin to exploit doubt to reach a goal that is other than truth?

Perhaps this is the real motive of Nicholson Baker, author of Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization who casts naked aspersions on the motives of the allies in their struggle with NAZI Germany.  Recently held up alongside of Richard Dawkins and other so-called academics to critique that which was once popular, I suppose, Baker has apparently done nothing more than take a series of disparate observations about the possible (and I say ‘possible’) isolated motives of certain protagonists that took the stage in World War II.  While some of the observations are valid, even correct – the conclusions either alluded to or outright stated could not be further from the real truth of the matter.  And I’m speaking as a student of history on the subject of World War II!  Which is why I hasten to add: I suspect Mr. Baker knows it!

Were this an honest critique of the characters involved, I’d have little difficulty putting Baker’s work alongside those of other historical works on my bookshelf.  But as it stands – this fellow needs to be soundly repudiated, not sounded off in the popular media.  Shame on Mr. Baker.  Shame on him and on the desecrations of the memory not only of those of whom he is guilty of character-assassinating.  On the desecration of the memory of those who fought against Hitler in World War II (like my grandfather) – as being mindless automatons called into service only to serve the alleged petty agendas of self-aggrandizement and naked avarice of those chosen by the people to represent their interests.  Surely, sir, the cause deserves a better testimonial than this!  Particularly when those interests to which I refer were so very much worse than anything your book levels either as accusation or distortion.

Somewhere, perhaps not that far away from where Mr. Baker finds himself sipping a foreign beverage in the company of his fellow dilettantes, those who made the ultimate sacrifice in stemming the evil tide that was NAZI totalitarianism are spinning in their graves. Not at the work itself, but at the notoriety it seems to be bringing Mr. Nicholson Baker.  Ironically, the just outcome to this tale is not to leave him to his questioning of those who led and fought World War II for the allies; rather it is to question Mr. Baker himself.  His motives.  His research.  And ultimately, his culpability for an attempt at distorting history.

See another critque by Andrew Cohen, at the OttawaCitizen.com website.

Categories: History
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Terry Glavin


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